If you’re a screenwriter, you’ll know what it’s like to pour your blood, sweat and tears into perfecting a screenplay. And when you’ve finally reached that last beat and punch in those last words “Fade Out” or “End Pilot”, all you’re left wondering is whether or not you wrote a masterpiece or a dog’s breakfast. The problem is you’ve been married to your script for too long and your ability to judge your own writing has gone out the window. So how do you really know if your script is good?
The most sensible thing to do is send it to your “trusted” peers who promise they’re going to give you their blunt, honest opinion. These trusted peers are probably fellow screenwriters or members of your writers group. But let’s be real. As trusted as these people are, they’ll at best give you constructive criticism on how to make your script better. At worst, tell you how amazing of a screenwriter you are, give you a couple notes and call it a day.
In actuality, you’re not looking for someone to literally tell you if your script is good. These are NOT the words you are looking for. There are only two phrases that stand as the honest indicator of whether or not your script is good:
1) I would like to buy/option/finance your script
2) I would like to send this script to (fill in the blank)
Or similar variations of both.
For 1), it’s fairly obvious why this is a telling sign that your script is good.
When it comes to 2), most people in the industry need different scripts for different purposes. Chances are, your script will not meet that purpose. But the truth with Hollywood executives, despite how cynical this industry is, people want to see things happen. Whether it’s getting a script optioned, movie financed, a writer sign with an agent, people love to see these good things happen. So if an executive (or writer, producer, director) reads your script but they don’t send it to anyone else or do anything pro-active with it (regardless of how good they tell you it is) this is a very telling sign that your script is probably not good. They have their reputation to risk. They would never send out a script to someone if they didn’t think it was great.
So next time if some one tells you how great their script is, wait for them to mention who else they sent it to (or want to send it to). If they don’t bring it up, chances are you’re script is not that great and you should work on that next draft.